WASHINGTON (Feb. 23)
Undersecretary of State W. Averell Harriman left today for Israel on an emergency mission to urge restraint on Israel over the West German arms shipment cancelation. Officials here said the mission did not include any initiation of an American arms supply program for Israel. Mr. Harriman will arrive in Israel tomorrow and will remain there for a few days.
Mr. Harriman left West Palm Beach, Florida, on a military jet, accompanied by Robert Comer of the White House staff. Mr. Comer is an aide to Presidential adviser McGeoge Bundy. President Johnson, described by officials as concerned about West Germany’s problems in the wake of both Arab and Israeli reactions to Bonn policies consented quickly to State Department suggestions that Mr. Harriman be dispatched to “calm down” Israel.
The mission is described as at the personal direction of President Johnson. This, it was believed, will strengthen Mr. Harriman’s status in meeting with Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and other Israeli leaders, Officials here stressed–in an obvious effort to avoid criticism from Egyptian President Nasser–that Mr. Harriman will not convey any commitment for a United States arms programs to substitute for the canceled West German shipments.
The main purpose of the visit, according to high State Department sources, is to meet urgent West German appeals for United States help to dampen the furor stemming from the disclosure of the Bonn-Jerusalem arms agreement and its abrupt cancelation two weeks ago.
State Department spokesman Robert McCloskey announced today that Mr. Harriman would visit a number of other capitals after his Israel mission. He added that the State Department could not yet specify whether Bonn, Cairo or other capitals are on Mr. Harriman’s itinerary. He indicated that the Harriman visit to Israel was linked with West German Ambassador Heinrich Knappstein’s request that the State Department intercede with Israel to restore calm.
Ambassador Knappstein made his request for United States intercession with both Israel and the Arab states during a meeting with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, The State Department issued a statement, requested by West Germany, expressing disapproval of informal boycott moves by American businessmen against West German products.